Catching rainbow trout in Kansas seems like an oxymoron; sort of like polar bear hunting in West Virginia or whale watching at Yellowstone Lake. Kansas is known for its walleye, crappie and catfish, but trout?
Wildlife and fisheries programs here in KS are funded largely by revenue from license sales that comes back to the state from the federal government. That money is reallocated back to Kansas according to the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold each year, so the more licenses sold, the more money we get back. In the 1990’s, Kansas began a trout stocking program as a way to generate more fishing license sales in the off-season, and as a way to create more fishing opportunities during the fall and winter.
I spoke with David Breth, Fisheries Program Specialist with the KS Dept of Wildlife Parks and Tourism KDWPT) who oversees the trout stocking program. This year there will be approximately 36 lakes and water impoundments across Kansas stocked with trout. Seventeen of those are private lakes owned by towns or cities that are enrolled in the Community Fisheries Assistance Program (CFAP), meaning they purchase their own fish, but allow the KDWPT to manage the lakes. The rest of the lakes and reservoirs stocked with trout are state owned and operated.
Although KDWPT operates 5 fish hatcheries here in Kansas, none are equipped to hatch and raise trout, which are especially sensitive to environmental factors such as temperature, water quality etc, so it’s more cost effective to purchase trout from commercial hatcheries for the stocking program. Last year a Colorado hatchery supplied all trout for the western half of the state and trout for the eastern half came from a hatchery in Missouri.
Rainbow trout are the easiest and least expensive trout for hatcheries to raise, making them also the least expensive to buy, plus they tolerate warm temperatures better than other trout, so the bulk of the trout stocked here in Kansas are rainbows. However, brown trout are also put into the seep stream below Kanopolis Reservoir and into ponds in the Mined Land Wildlife Area in extreme southeastern KS. Browns are more sensitive to water temperatures and need cool water, and both those locations offer just that. Water in the seep stream comes from the bottom of Kanopolis reservoir, and the lakes and ponds that make up the mined land area are old strip mine pits that are very deep. Trout in most locations are not expected to live through the hot Kansas summers, but trout in these 2 locations often survive.
All locations are stocked twice a month from November through March; waters in the southwestern region are stocked November through April. A complete stocking schedule can be found on the KDWPT website, www.ksoutdoors.com. Click on “fishing” at the top, then click “special fishing programs” on the left. The “trout program” will appear in a box toward the center of the screen. All available information on the trout fishing and stocking program is available there including license and permit requirements which vary from region to region.
Over the past 10 years, over 1.5 million trout have been stocked in Kansas lakes through the program; that averages out to be over 150,000 per year.The state record rainbow trout weighted 15.72 pounds, was 28.5 inches long and was caught in Kill Creek Park Lake in Johnson Co. by Josh McCullough from Spring Hill. The state record brown trout came from the Kanopolis Seep Stream, weighted 4.18 pounds, was 20.25 inches long and was caught by McPherson resident Daniel Schrag.
I know fishermen who do not keep any of the trout they catch because they deem them to be less desirable fish, and yes, compared to walleye and crappie, which is kinda’ like comparing a Volkswagen to a Cadillac, I would agree. But trout is a very mild tasting fish that actually contains higher than average amounts of good Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. Trout is also known to help reduce bad cholesterol and to help lower high blood pressure.
I don’t ever order trout in a restaurant because it always comes with the head still attached and I’m not real crazy about my meal looking back at me. However trout can be filleted just like any other fish, and can be battered and pan fried or deep fried just like catfish, or can be basted with herb butter and baked. The way I see it, I have now officially removed all excuses for not fishing here in Kansas this winter. So check out the website for trout stocked near you, then grab a kid and enjoy some great fall and winter trout fishing as you continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve can be contacted by email at [email protected]